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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Ghostbuster’s Acid Injury Won’t Fall to State

(CN) - Rhode Island is not liable to a teenage ghost hunter who was splashed with sulfuric acid while searching an abandoned building, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Steven Burton was 17 years old when he and four friends searched the Ladd Center in Exeter, R.I., for ghosts on Nov. 27. 2005.

The building has been abandoned since 1994 and had begun to gain "a reputation in certain quarters as a home for ghosts and things that go bump in the night," according to the ruling.

No fence surrounds the property, but there are several "No Trespassing" signs posted, and the building is secured with boards, chains and metal grates.

Burton had visited the former hospital twice before.

Despite these obstacles, the boys climbed up a pipe and entered the building through a third-story window. Once inside, they found four gallon-size glass bottles containing a clear substance.

As they left the "reputedly haunted" house with three of the bottles, one broke and splashed sulfuric acid onto Burton, burning him severely.

Burton, admitting that he was a trespasser, sued the state of Rhode Island under the doctrine of attractive nuisance.

The superior court dismissed the lawsuit, but the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed on Dec. 20.

"It strains credulity to think that plaintiff, a 17-year-old who was about to complete his G.E.D., did not realize the risk involved in climbing a pipe to an upper-story window and entering a dark, abandoned building," Chief Justice Paul Suttell wrote for the five-member court.

"Further, the discovery of the bottles triggered enough caution within the group for L.V. to pour some of the liquid out for further examination," Suttell added. "As plaintiff himself testified, when he saw the liquid in the bottle, he believed it contains a hazardous material."

The 13-page opinion opens with Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," which says, "While yet a boy, I sought for ghosts, and sped/Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin/And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing/Hopes of high talk with the departed dead."

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